Energy Storage Solved?

A new discovery may put an end to a number of energy problems ranging from lengthy charge times for electric cars to an inefficient power distribution grid.
Published: Wed 08 May 2013

Renewable energy generation is expected to increase from 162GW to 1019GW globally. This is in response to the growing demand for power and decreasing fossil fuel supplies. Experts predict that global energy capacity will grow by 73% by 2030, with renewable energy generation taking the lead. Most of this renewable energy will come from wind and solar, creating an intermittent energy supply which could pose a number of issues for the proliferation of these energy technologies in the future. New problems are created as attempts are made to balance supply and demand. As a result, there will be a need for decent power storage or balancing capacity. This need has created a large market potential for energy storage. Experts estimate that the market potential is US$600bn over the next decade even if only 1% of the total global stationary generation market adopts some form of energy storage for stationary power.

Researchers are scrambling to find a battery that will store the energy generated by wind turbines and solar panels and will provide a reliable stream of energy even when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. UCLA professor Richard Kaner and graduate student Maher El-Kady may have found the solution to the energy storage issue: graphene micro supercapacitors. The devices are able to charge very quickly and have the potential to store hundreds of times more energy than average batteries. Kaner and El-Kady hope to develop the device so that it can be used in the renewable energy sector. As the micro supercapacitors can be directly integrated on-chip, these devices may help to better extract energy from solar, mechanical and thermal sources and thus make more efficient self-powered systems. They could also be fabricated on the backside of solar cells in both portable devices and rooftop installations to store power generated during the day for use after sundown, helping to provide electricity around the clock when connection to the grid is not possible.

Professor Kaner is currently on the lookout for funding for the mass production of this technology. A new cost-effective fabrication method has been developed which may assist with sourcing funds. If Kaner obtains the necessary funds, the marriage of renewable energy methods and energy capture and storage will become a welcome reality. The technology will provide cheap storage and release of renewable energy produced using sustainable methods. As a result, the renewable energy sector can expect to experience a long-awaited boost. There will be an increase in solar, wind, and thermal household and commercial manufacture and installation. The development will also affect the growth potential in solar and wind job training, electric vehicles, manufacturing, shipping, installation, and maintenance industries. If this technology is introduced on a large scale, major changes can be expected in energy sectors across the world.

Engerati Analysis

Kaner and El-Kady have discovered an energy storage medium with revolutionary potential for the energy world.


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